Soon after I was invited by a series of hair pin bends. There are in total 42 hair pin bends that led me to the hills of Valparai. As I approached the 9th hair pin bend a breath taking view of the Aliyar reservoir awed me.
Further up until we reached the main town each bend offered a beautiful scenic view.After a long twisting journey I finally reached Valparai around 1 pm. The main street of the town hardly lasted for a km; a stretch that starts with the market area and ends with the bus station. Small stalls selling fresh vegetable, fruits and tea shops, restaurants and bakery, bustling people, filled the streets with life. I realised how simple and yet beautiful this place was.
This being such a small town, there were hardly any good hotels to stay, I only found a couple of lodges with a fair review and so I decided to choose The Green Hills Hotel (or rather Lodge). The Rooms were just about decent enough to spend the night. They had a room service facility to request for Tea & coffee. They also had like a mini restaurant, but I wouldn’t recommend having a meal there. Thanks to my parents brains, out picnic bag served as an amazing lunch; atleast we dint have to hunt for food in a new place.
In the evening as I strolled down the road I could see the horizon of the tea estates meeting the sky. I heard the gushing sound from the stream of river that flowed between the hills, a view of sunset amongst the green bushes. It was a perfect evening that I could have asked for my holiday. Soon after me and my cousin set of on a journey to hunt food, as we were vegetarians our choices were even limited. On the streets were some traditional street foods like lady selling hot idlies in a cart, another cart with eggparatha and egg dosa. The only other decent restaurant we found was the Lakshmi Mess, we decided to settle with idlies and paratas for dinner.
The next morning I found a perfect way to start my day with an early walks into the Tea Garden. Stepping out of my hotel just before sunrise, I jogged through the streets of Valparai, fresh misty wind, green estates and golden rays rising above me made my trip. Although I never wanted to leave, the sun goddess with her strong ray forced me to do so. On my way back to the hotel, I stopped over for an amazing South Indian breakfast at Lakshmi Mess.
No holiday to tea or coffee county is complete without a trip to the Tea Factory and so I headed straight to the Tan Tea Factory (or Ryan Factory) to see the process of Tea Making. The machinery and the building was old seemed more like antique and so was the tea making process. The manager kindly showed around the whole factory and explained CTC the process of tea making.
Fresh leaves are withering by laying them on a wire mesh and drying them with huge fans. This process removes 70% of the moisture in a uniform way. Once dried the leaves are cut, torn and curled by metal rollers (CTC). Then they are fermented by exposing the leaves in air and are oxidized to add flavour and colour to the tea. After which the flavoured leaves are dried through a drier and sent for segregation.
The final product segregates the tea into four different categories, which is then batched, labelled, packed and sold. It was interesting to note that in this whole process no part of a tea leaf gets wasted. They are all used in some way or the other. On my way back, I spent a few minutes chatting with the factory workers and got a gist of their lifestyle.
A blissful hill hidden amongst the borders of Kerala and Tamil Nadu; small yet serene in its own way felt like a perfect weekend getaway. If you’d like to venture more then you could extend you trip to view the Athirampally falls or even visit the Indira Gandhi wildlife sanctuary at Topslip.